Background. RNA interference (RNAi) is a phenomenon in which expression of an individual gene can be specifically silenced by introducing a double-stranded RNA, one complementary to the gene, into cells. This phenomenon can be observed in mammalian cells when small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) are used, and is receiving attention as the most powerful tool for reverse genetics in the post genome era. Several groups have developed vector-based siRNA-expression systems that can induce RNAi in living cells. Methods. We describe here a comparative analysis of various siRNA-expression systems, in which we examined the effects of stem length, loop sequence and insertion of mutation(s) and/or bulges in the stem sequence on silencing effects and on the stability of the vectors. Results. As a result of the comparative analysis, we determined the following optimized siRNA-expression system: U6 promoter-driven hairpin-type dsRNA with 21-nt stem length, three to four mutations in the sense strand only, and the optimized 9-nt loop sequence, derived from microRNA. Moreover, we demonstrate that the siRNA-expression system with a tetracycline-regulated U6 promoter(s) could have the potential to control RNAi in cells, and that the HTV vector-mediated transfer of an siRNA-expression cassette into cells resulted in efficient silencing of a target gene at a multiplicity of infection as low as five. Conclusion. The mutated hairpin siRNAs and their genetically stable coding vectors could be very useful for gene knockdown experiments, and could further benefit gene therapy using RNAi.
ASJC Scopus subject areas